Matchups: Kansas State

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QB

Advantage: Kansas State

Wildcat signal-caller Jake Waters is the engine behind one of the most balanced option attacks in the country. The senior leads the team in rushing and has notched two 100-yard rushing performances on the season to complement his 8.6 yards per pass attempt.

Tyrone Swoopes’ performance against Iowa State perfectly summed up the sophomore quarterback. Swoopes flashed his great athleticism by scampering for 95 yards and lobbing two perfect deep balls on Texas’ final drive, but he showed his inconsistency with a horrendous interception in the end zone and dangerous misfires on earlier long passes. 

RB

Advantage: Kansas State

Sophomore Charles Jones and senior DeMarcus Robinson give Kansas State the two-pronged attack that Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown were supposed to bring to the Longhorns. Jones and Robinson are averaging 4.9 and 4.6 yards per carry, respectively, and the two have an almost equal share of the touches out of the backfield.

Junior Johnathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown have been serviceable running the ball all season, but the tandem was supposed to make up one of the best backfields in college football. The running backs have not yet proven that they can carry this team to victory this season. 

WR

Advantage: Kansas State

At the receiver position, the Wildcats have a frightening duo that will expose any weaknesses in Texas’ man-to-man coverage ability. Senior Tyler Lockett is one of the best receivers in the country, but senior Curry Sexton has thrived in his shadow, hauling in 412 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior Marcus Johnson has used the last couple of games to work his way back into the mix and give the Texas offense a much-needed vertical threat. Senior John Harris continues to be Swoopes’ go-to receiver and is coming off of a nine-reception, 147-yard game. 

OL

Advantage: Kansas State

The Wildcat offensive line has been a stout run-blocking unit all season. The three veteran starters on the left side — including B.J. Finney, a Remington Trophy candidate — have combined for 88 career starts and helped the Wildcats average 4.6 yards per carry this season.

Offensive line coach Joe Wickline has been rotating personnel all season in search of the perfect combination of linemen. Junior left guard Sedrick Flowers is the only lineman who has started every game for Texas, but the group has made steady improvements each week. 

DL

Advantage: Kansas State

All-American defensive end Ryan Mueller had 11.5 sacks in 2013, but the senior has only 1.5 so far in 2014. The Wildcat defensive line has done a great job against the run, however, holding its opponents to a mere 3.2 yards per carry. 

The Texas defensive line has played much better against the run in recent weeks, but it needs to start getting pressure on the quarterbacks. Opposing passers have had plenty of time to pick apart the secondary when the Longhorns don’t come with a blitz. 

LB

Advantage: Texas

Texas needs a great game from its linebackers in order to knock off Kansas State. The Wildcats’ balanced attack thrives on linebackers overcommitting to the pass or the run, meaning senior Jordan Hicks and company will have to play with great discipline to stop both the short-pass and ground attacks.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Truman anchors the Kansas State linebacking corps and leads the Wildcats with a team-high 60 tackles. Fellow senior Dakorey Johnson has spent a lot of time in opposing backfields this season, generating a team-high 5.5 tackles for loss.  

DB

Advantage: Texas

Senior Quandre Diggs is one of the best cover corners in the nation, but the rest of the secondary has struggled to support him at times. Senior safety Mykkele Thompson struggles to tackle consistently and junior cornerback Duke Thomas is not as good as his three interceptions might suggest.

The Wildcats do not really have a weakness on defense, but the secondary has not been quite as dominant as the front seven. Still, the Wildcats have held opponents to a solid 251.2 passing yards per game, and junior cornerback Morgan Burns has recorded three interceptions in his last two games. 

ST

Advantage: K-State

The Wildcats have the explosiveness to exploit the Longhorns’ frail special teams. Tyler Lockett’s 26.8 yards per return average is the highest in the country, and the senior has four kickoff return touchdowns in his career. Redshirt freshman kicker Matthew McCrane has converted all 21 of his kicks this season. 

Texas finally played a full sixty minutes without a horrendous special teams gaffe and, not coincidentally, managed to pull off its first close win of the 2014 season in the process. This unit has proven that it can at least be mediocre, but the return game needs to improve if special teams are to become a strength for the Longhorns.